As a child and a teenager, I believed pretty much whatever I wanted to be true. The thought of death being final and my fate not being watched over by some all-powerful and loving being was simply too scary – so I believed in god. Very early I was able to find evidence for god’s existence – purely philosophical of course. But science was right too, of course… it was like math – you couldn’t just deny it. For some reason it seemed a little boring – so complicated and soulless (I just knew a little popular science and I was interested but unimpressed for the most part). But religion seemed to belong to another reality, since nothing ever seemed to enter this one. The Bible was obviously not meant to be taken as a historical book, so I didn’t. And I knew there were many other religions than Catholicism that seemed to have developed in a similar way but that could not be right if my religion was (or vice versa) – but somehow they were ridiculous (though I always had some kind of respect for Buddhism) and mine wasn’t. But I couldn’t help but differentiate between things that were true and things I wanted to be true. Every time I learned something from science, there was a nice chain of arguments that was anchored in something tangible. If I didn’t believe it, I was free to see for myself – no-one had to convince me. But all I got from religion were non-tangible things that weren’t connected to anything. If I followed these chains, I’d only find myself in an endless loop of circular reasoning. Or even worse, outright contradictions. And I simply hate contradictions.
So I became an agnostic.
But my fear of losing anything – things, loved ones, my life… kept me from thinking rationally for many years. I just tend to be superstitious – it’s like a mental illness.
Letting go of religion to that extent made me look for and cling to other things. I read all sorts of esoteric stuff on the Internet (I was surfing regularly before Y2K) and though I never really ended up believing any of it – the most spiritual thing that ever happened to me were some vivid dreams, but I knew they were dreams – it was very compelling. Or extraterrestrials. Not all of the evidence could be faked or misinterpreted, could it? (I still think that visiting aliens are more probable than the existence of god, that’s not really saying much if you think about it). Yet all those were things that you had to believe in. Sure, some looked science-y and the believers were quite adept at convincing others. But without real evidence or proper scientific methods it was just religion all over again – in the end you had to make one or more leaps of faith. And the problem with that leap is this: On one hand you could land anywhere, on the other hand there’s already someone telling you were to land. Or even worse, there’s a bunch of people saying different things. It’s clear that the “leap of faith” in itself is not a virtue, since it is completely random.
So I finally started listening to the part of me that constantly made me rethink my views, that kept waking me up when I started napping intellectually. I’m sure I’m still far from being a rational, consistent thinker – but I know what to strive for. Because the universe doesn’t care what you want it to be, it just is what it is. If you honestly try to understand it, you’ll see that there are real, tangible things out there that are much more astonishing than anything religion or some stupid pseudoscience was able to come up with. The only problem is that it’s hard. There are counter-intuitive concepts, there is a LOT of math, and there are certain truths that will look very grim from a spiritual point of view.
I seem to have reached the end of my argument here, but let me give you an example of what I was talking about.
The belief that aliens are visiting and have been visiting this planet for thousands of years is very wide-spread and I admit, very appealing. It’s something I’d like to be true, and many people share this feeling. Unfortunately, not only are there much better explanations for most of the so-called evidence (none if it being remains of an alien or alien technology), but the main arguments are total fallacies:
- I don’t know how to build X or how these primitive people came up with it, therefore someone more advanced must have helped them.
- Since 1. is true and I can’t think of anyone else, it must have been Aliens. The only thing left for speculation is why they did it, not if.
“It was Aliens” would only be an alternative if their existence and involvement here on earth had already been proven without any doubt! It’s absolutely the same mistake that fundamentalist religious people do – they think they can use their belief as a given fact in any argument (famously even if the argument is about the validity of their belief itself). And concerning the “no other alternative” argument – what about time-travelers, parallel universes and the people of Atlantis? Using these people as explanations isn’t better than involving Aliens, but not exactly worse either.
The best explanation remains the simplest one: Human ingenuity, fantasy and weird beliefs gave us some incredible archeological findings.
It’s exactly these three things that also make our present era so exciting, unpredictable and frightening. For that we don’t need Gods and we don’t need Aliens. But we do need rational thinking to survive the next century and wishful thinking alone isn’t helping.